The week passed quickly for me, leaving but few definite
impressions. As I look back to it now I can see the long stretch of beach
burning in the fierce sunlight, the endless meadows, with the glimmer of
water in the distance, the dunes, the twisted cedars, the leagues of scintillating
ocean, rocking, rocking, always rocking. In the starlit nights the curlew
came in from the sand-bars by twos and threes; I could hear their querulous
call as I lay in bed thinking. All day long the little ring-necks whistled
from the shore. The plover answered them from distant, lonely inland pools.
The great white gulls drifted like feathers upon the sea.
“One morning towards the end of the week, I, strolling along the dunes,
came upon Frisby. He was bill-posting. I caught him red-handed.
“‘This,’ said I, ‘must stop. Do you understand, Mr. Frisby?’
“He stepped back from his work, laying his head on one side, considering
first me, then the bill that he had pasted on one of our big boilers.
“‘Don’t you like the color?’ he asked. ‘It goes well on them black boilers.’
“‘Color! No, I don’t like the color, either. Can’t you understand that
there are some people in the world who object to seeing patent-medicine
advertisements scattered over a landscape?’
“‘Hey?’ he said, perplexed.
“‘Will you kindly remove that advertisement?’ I persisted.
“‘’Too late,’ said Frisby; ‘it’s sot.’
“I was too disgusted to speak, but my disgust turned to anger when I perceived
that, as far as the eye could reach, our boilers, lying from three to four
hundred feet apart, were ablaze with yellow-and-red posters extolling the
‘Eureka Liver Pill Company.’
“‘It don’t cost ‘em nothin’,’ said Frisby, cheerfully; ‘I done it fur the
fun of it. Purty, ain’t it?’
“‘They are Professor Holroyd’s boilers,’ I said, subduing a desire to beat
Frisby with my telescope. ‘Wait until Miss Holroyd sees this work.’
“‘Don’t she like yeller and red?’ he demanded, anxiously.
“‘You’ll find out,’ said I.
“Frisby gaped at his handiwork and then at his yellow dog. After a moment
he mechanically spat on a clam-shell and requested Davy to ‘sic’ it.
“‘Can’t you comprehend that you have ruined our pleasure in the landscape?’
I asked, more mildly.
“‘I’ve got some green bills,’ said Frisby; ‘I kin stick ‘em over the yeller
“‘Confound it,’ said I, ‘it isn’t the color!’
“‘Then,’ observed Frisby, ‘you don’t like them pills. I’ve got some bills
of the “Cropper Automobile” and a few of “Bagley, the Gents’ Tailor”—’
“‘Frisby,’ said I, ‘use them all—paste the whole collection over your dog
and yourself—then walk off the cliff.’
“He sullenly unfolded a green poster, swabbed the boiler with paste, laid
the upper section of the bill upon it, and plastered the whole bill down
with a thwack of his brush. As I walked away I heard him muttering.
“Next day Daisy was so horrified that I promised to give Frisby an ultimatum.
I found him with Freda, gazing sentimentally at his work, and I sent him
back to the shop in a hurry, telling Freda at the same time that she could
spend her leisure in providing Mr. Frisby with sand, soap, and a scrubbing-brush.
Then I walked on to my post of observation.
“I watched until sunset. Daisy came with her father to hear my report,
but there was nothing to tell, and we three walked slowly back to the house.
“In the evenings the professor worked on his volumes, the click of his
type-writer sounding faintly behind his closed door. Daisy and I played
chess sometimes; sometimes we played hearts. I don’t remember that we ever
finished a game of either—we talked too much.
“Our discussions covered every topic of interest: we argued upon politics;
we skimmed over literature and music; we settled international differences;
we spoke vaguely of human brotherhood. I say we slighted no subject of
interest—I am wrong; we never spoke of love.
“Now, love is a matter of interest to ten people out of ten. Why it was
that it did not appear to interest us is as interesting a question as love
itself. We were young, alert, enthusiastic, inquiring. We eagerly absorbed
theories concerning any curious phenomena in nature, as intellectual cocktails
to stimulate discussion. And yet we did not discuss love. I do not say
that we avoided it. No; the subject was too completely ignored for even
that. And yet we found it very difficult to pass an hour separated. The
professor noticed this, and laughed at us. We were not even embarrassed.
“Sunday passed in pious contemplation of the ocean. Daisy read a little
in her prayer-book, and the professor threw a cloth over his type-writer
and strolled up and down the sands. He may have been lost in devout abstraction;
he may have been looking for footprints. As for me, my mind was very serene,
and I was more than happy. Daisy read to me a little for my soul’s sake,
and the professor came up and said something cheerful. He also examined
the magazine of my Winchester.
“That night, too, Daisy took her guitar to the sands and sang one or two
Basque hymns. Unlike us, the Basques do not take their pleasures sadly.
One of their pleasures is evidently religion.
“The big moon came up over the dunes and stared at the sea until the surface
of every wave trembled with radiance. A sudden stillness fell across the
world; the wind died out; the foam ran noiselessly across the beach; the
cricket’s rune was stilled.
“I leaned back, dropping one hand upon the sand. It touched another hand,
soft and cool.
“After a while the other hand moved slightly, and I found that my own had
closed above it. Presently one finger stirred a little—only a little—for
our fingers were interlocked.
“On the shore the foam-froth bubbled and winked and glimmered in the moonlight.
A star fell from the zenith, showering the night with incandescent dust.
“If our fingers lay interlaced beside us, her eyes were calm and serene
as always, wide open, fixed upon the depths of a dark sky. And when her
father rose and spoke to us, she did not withdraw her hand.
“‘Is it late?’ she asked, dreamily.
“‘It is midnight, little daughter.’
“I stood up, still holding her hand, and aided her to rise. And when, at
the door, I said good-night, she turned and looked at me for a little while
in silence, then passed into her room slowly, with head still turned towards
“All night long I dreamed of her; and when the east whitened, I sprang
up, the thunder of the ocean in my ears, the strong sea-wind blowing into
the open window.
“‘She is asleep,’ I thought, and I leaned from the window and peered out
into the east.
“The sea called to me, tossing its thousand arms; the soaring gulls, dipping,
rising, wheeling above the sandbar, screamed and clamored for a playmate.
I slipped into my bathing-suit, dropped from the window upon the soft sand,
and in a moment had plunged head foremost into the surf, swimming beneath
the waves towards the open sea.
“Under the tossing ocean the voice of the waters was in my ears—a low,
sweet voice, intimate, mysterious. Through singing foam and broad, green,
glassy depths, by whispering sandy channels atrail with sea-weed, and on,
on, out into the vague, cool sea, I sped, rising to the top, sinking, gliding.
Then at last I flung myself out of water, hands raised, and the clamor
of the gulls filled my ears.
“As I lay, breathing fast, drifting on the sea, far out beyond the gulls
I saw a flash of white, and an arm was lifted, signalling me.
“‘Daisy!’ I called.
“A clear hail came across the water, distinct on the sea-wind, and at the
same instant we raised our hands and moved towards each other.
“How we laughed as we met in the sea! The white dawn came up out of the
depths, the zenith turned to rose and ashes.
“And with the dawn came the wind—a great sea-wind, fresh, aromatic, that
hurled our voices back into our throats and lifted the sheeted spray above
our heads. Every wave, crowned with mist, caught us in a cool embrace,
cradled us, and slipped away, only to leave us to another wave, higher,
stronger, crested with opalescent glory, breathing incense.
“We turned together up the coast, swimming lightly side by side, but our
words were caught up by the winds and whirled into the sky.
“We looked up at the driving clouds; we looked out upon the pallid waste
of waters, but it was into each other’s eyes we looked, wondering, wistful,
questioning the reason of sky and sea. And there in each other’s eyes we
read the mystery, and we knew that earth and sky and sea were created for
“Drifting on by distant sands and dunes, her white fingers touching mine,
we spoke, keying our tones to the wind’s vast harmony. And we spoke of
“Gray and wide as the limitless span of the sky and the sea, the winds
gathered from the world’s ends to bear us on; but they were not familiar
winds; for now, along the coast, the breakers curled and showed a million
fangs, and the ocean stirred to its depths, uneasy, ominous, and the menace
of its murmur drew us closer as we moved.
“Where the dull thunder and the tossing spray warned us from sunken reefs,
we heard the harsh challenges of gulls; where the pallid surf twisted in
yellow coils of spume above the bar, the singing sands murmured of treachery
and secrets of lost souls agasp in the throes of silent undertows.
“But there was a little stretch of beach glimmering through the mountains
of water, and towards this we turned, side by side. Around us the water
grew warmer; the breath of the following waves moistened our cheeks; the
water itself grew gray and strange about us.
“‘We have come too far,’ I said; but she only answered:
“‘Faster, faster! I am afraid!’ The water was almost hot now; its aromatic
odor filled our lungs.
“‘The Gulf loop!’ I muttered. ‘Daisy, shall I help you?’
“‘No. Swim—close by me! Oh-h! Dick—’
“Her startled cry was echoed by another—a shrill scream, unutterably horrible—and
a great bird flapped from the beach, splashing and beating its pinions
across the water with a thundering noise.
“Out across the waves it blundered, rising little by little from the water,
and now, to my horror, I saw another monstrous bird swinging in the air
above it, squealing as it turned on its vast wings. Before I could speak
we touched the beach, and I half lifted her to the shore.
“‘Quick!’ I repeated. ‘We must not wait.’
“Her eyes were dark with fear, but she rested a hand on my shoulder, and
we crept up among the dune-grasses and sank down by the point of sand where
the rough shelter stood, surrounded by the iron-ringed piles.
“She lay there, breathing fast and deep, dripping with spray. I had no
power of speech left, but when I rose wearily to my knees and looked out
upon the water my blood ran cold. Above the ocean, on the breast of the
roaring wind, three enormous birds sailed, turning and wheeling among one
another; and below, drifting with the gray stream of the Gulf loop, a colossal
bulk lay half submerged—a gigantic lizard, floating belly upward.
“Then Daisy crept kneeling to my side and touched me, trembling from head
“‘I know,’ I muttered. ‘I must run back for the rifle.’
“‘And—and leave me?’
“I took her by the hand, and we dragged ourselves through the wire-grass
to the open end of a boiler lying in the sand.
“She crept in on her hands and knees, and called to me to follow.
“‘You are safe now,’ I cried. ‘I must go back for the rifle.’
“‘The birds may—may attack you.’
“‘If they do I can get into one of the other boilers,’ I said. ‘Daisy,
you must not venture out until I come back. You won’t, will you?’
“‘No-o,’ she whispered, doubtfully.
“‘Good-bye,’ she answered, but her voice was very small and still.
“‘Good-bye,’ I said again. I was kneeling at the mouth of the big iron
tunnel; it was dark inside and I could not see her, but, before I was conscious
of it, her arms were around my neck and we had kissed each other.
“I don’t remember how I went away. When I came to my proper senses I was
swimming along the coast at full speed, and over my head wheeled one of
the birds, screaming at every turn.
“The intoxication of that innocent embrace, the close impress of her arms
around my neck, gave me a strength and recklessness that neither fear nor
fatigue could subdue. The bird above me did not even frighten me. I watched
it over my shoulder, swimming strongly, with the tide now aiding me, now
stemming my course; but I saw the shore passing quickly, and my strength
increased, and I shouted when I came in sight of the house, and scrambled
up on the sand, dripping and excited. There was nobody in sight, and I
gave a last glance up into the air where the bird wheeled, still screeching,
and hastened into the house. Freda stared at me in amazement as I seized
the rifle and shouted for the professor.
“‘He has just gone to town, with Captain McPeek in his wagon,’ stammered
“‘What!’ I cried. ‘Does he know where his daughter is?’
“‘Miss Holroyd is asleep—not?’ gasped Freda.
“‘Where’s Frisby?’ I cried, impatiently.
“‘Yimmie?’ quavered Freda.
“‘Yes, Jimmie; isn’t there anybody here? Good Heavens! where’s that man
in the shop?’
“‘He also iss gone,’ said Freda, shedding tears, ‘to buy papier-mache.
Yimmie, he iss gone to post bills.’
“I waited to hear no more, but swung my rifle over my shoulder, and, hanging
the cartridge-belt across my chest, hurried out and up the beach. The bird
was not in sight.
“I had been running for perhaps a minute when, far up on the dunes, I saw
a yellow dog rush madly through a clump of sweet-bay, and at the same moment
a bird soared past, rose, and hung hovering just above the thicket. Suddenly
the bird swooped; there was a shriek and a yelp from the cur, but the bird
gripped it in one claw and beat its wings upon the sand, striving to rise.
Then I saw Frisby—paste, bucket, and brush raised—fall upon the bird, yelling
lustily. The fierce creature relaxed its talons, and the dog rushed on,
squeaking with terror. The bird turned on Frisby and sent him sprawling
on his face, a sticky mass of paste and sand. But this did not end the
struggle. The bird, croaking horridly, flew at the prostrate bill-poster,
and the sand whirled into a pillar above its terrible wings. Scarcely knowing
what I was about, I raised my rifle and fired twice. A scream echoed each
shot, and the bird rose heavily in a shower of sand; but two bullets were
embedded in that mass of foul feathers, and I saw the wires and scarlet
tape uncoiling on the sand at my feet. In an instant I seized them and
passed the ends around a
cedar-tree, hooking the clasps tight. Then I cast one
swift glance upward, where the bird wheeled, screeching, anchored like
a kite to the pallium wires; and I hurried on across the dunes, the shells
cutting my feet and the bushes tearing my wet swimming-suit, until I dripped
with blood from shoulder to ankle. Out in the ocean the carcass of the
thermosaurus floated, claws outspread, belly glistening in the gray light,
and over him circled two birds. As I reached the shelter I knelt and fired
into the mass of scales, and at my first shot a horrible thing occurred—the
lizard-like head writhed, the slitted yellow eyes sliding open from the
film that covered them. A shudder passed across the undulating body, the
great scaled belly heaved, and one leg feebly clawed at the air.
“The thing was still alive!
“Crushing back the horror that almost paralyzed my hands, I planted shot
after shot into the quivering reptile, while it writhed and clawed, striving
to turn over and dive; and at each shot the black blood spurted in long,
slim jets across the water. And now Daisy was at my side, pale and determined,
swiftly clasping each tape-marked wire to the iron rings in the circle
around us. Twice I filled the magazine from my belt, and twice I poured
streams of steel-tipped bullets into the scaled mass, twisting and shuddering
on the sea. Suddenly the birds steered towards us. I felt the wind from
their vast wings. I saw the feathers erect, vibrating. I saw the spread
claws outstretched, and I struck furiously at them, crying to Daisy to
run into the iron shelter. Backing, swinging my clubbed rifle, I retreated,
but I tripped across one of the taut pallium wires, and in an instant the
hideous birds were on me, and the bone in my forearm snapped like a pipe-stem
at a blow from their wings. Twice I struggled to my knees, blinded with
blood, confused, almost fainting; then I fell again, rolling into the mouth
of the iron boiler.
“When I struggled back to consciousness Daisy knelt silently beside me,
while Captain McPeek and Professor Holroyd bound up my shattered arm, talking
excitedly. The pain made me faint and dizzy. I tried to speak and could
not. At last they got me to my feet and into the wagon, and Daisy came,
too, and crouched beside me, wrapped in oilskins to her eyes. Fatigue,
lack of food, and excitement had combined with wounds and broken bones
to extinguish the last atom of strength in my body; but my mind was clear
enough to understand that the trouble was over and the thermosaurus safe.
“I heard McPeek say that one of the birds that I had anchored to a cedar-tree
had torn loose from the bullets and had winged its way heavily out to sea.
The professor answered: ‘Yes, the ekaf-bird; the others were ool-ylliks.
I’d have given my right arm to have secured them.’ Then for a time I heard
no more; but the jolting of the wagon over the dunes roused me to keenest
pain, and I held out my right hand to Daisy. She clasped it in both of
hers, and kissed it again and again.
“There is little more to add, I think. Professor Bruce Stoddard’s scientific
pamphlet will be published soon, to be followed by Professor Holroyd’s
sixteen volumes. In a few days the stuffed and mounted thermosaurus will
be placed on free public exhibition in the arena of Madison Square Garden,
the only building in the city large enough to contain the body of this
immense winged reptile.”
The young man hesitated, looking long and earnestly at Miss Barrison.
“Did you marry her?” she asked, softly.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” said the young man, earnestly—“you wouldn’t
believe it, after all that happened, if I should tell you that she married
Professor Bruce Stoddard, of Columbia—would you?”
“Yes, I would,” said Miss Barrison. “You never can tell what a girl will
“That story of yours,” I said, “is to me the most wonderful and valuable
contribution to nature study that it has ever been my fortune to listen
to. You are fitted to write; it is your sacred mission to produce. Are
you going to?”
“I am writing,” said the young man, quietly, “a nature book. Sir Peter
Grebe’s magnificent monograph on the speckled titmouse inspired me. But
nature study is not what I have chosen as my life’s mission.”
He looked dreamily across at Miss Barrison. “No, not natural phenomena,”
he repeated, “but unnatural phenomena. What Professor Hyssop has done for
Columbia, I shall attempt to do for Harvard. In fact, I have already accepted
the chair of Psychical Phenomena at Cambridge.”
I gazed upon him with intense respect.
“A personal experience revealed to me my life’s work,” he went on, thoughtfully
stroking his blond mustache. “If Miss Barrison would care to hear it—”
“Please tell it,” she said, sweetly.
“I shall have to relate it clothed in that artificial garb known as literary
style,” he explained, deprecatingly.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, “I never noticed any style at all in your
story of the thermosaurus.”
He smiled gratefully, and passed his hand over his face; a far-away expression
came into his eyes, and he slowly began, hesitating, as though talking